Transcript: U.S. Thanks Japan for Its Antiterrorism Support

Ambassador Howard H. Baker, Jr.
Remarks to Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan
"9/11-One Year Later"

September 10, 2002
12:00 p.m. local time
Tokyo, Japan
U.S. Embassy-Tokyo Press Office

AMBASSADOR BAKER: Mr. Chairman, thank you very much for the warmth and cordiality of your introduction. I'm grateful for that, and I'm pleased to be back before this club for my second time - and also after the appearance of my wife some months ago, who certainly will have made the better speech of the two.

As you pointed out, Mr. Chairman, it was one year ago today on September 10 that I was in the United States attending the Midwest U.S.-Japan Friendship Conference in Wichita. After the conference ended, my wife and I flew to Chicago on our way back to Tokyo, and we spent the night there at the airport at O'Hare. The next morning, my secretary called early in the morning - Chicago time - and said, "Do you have your television on?"

As it turns out, the assault on the World Trade Center was underway at that very moment. I turned on the television in time to see the terrible consequences of the terrorist attack on the two World Trade Centers. As a result of that, we were not able to travel back to Tokyo and to our duty station for five days, because no planes were traveling from the United States to Japan in the wake of September 11.

But when I did return, as you would expect, I went directly to the U.S. Embassy, my point of responsibility. And I saw something there that was both impressive and heartwarming, because, unbidden and unexpected, there were long lines of Japanese and others at the front gate of the U.S. Embassy, extending down to the street and around the block, numbering in the hundreds - perhaps thousands --who'd come to leave floral tributes, an expression of support and sympathy for the tragedy of 9/11 at the American Embassy gate in Tokyo.

It is in commemoration of that event - and that show of support and friendship - that on tomorrow, even though I will be in Washington to prepare for the summit meeting between President Bush and Prime Minister Koizumi, my wife will participate in the planting of a tree of commemoration for the expression of support and sympathy by so many Japanese. That tree, by the way, will be nurtured by mulch generated from the flowers that were deposited there that day. It will be a poignant moment. It will be an important statement. It will be a reiteration of America's appreciation for the sympathy and support of Japan and the Japanese people for our distress and at our time of trial in the wake of September 11.

The Japanese government support was unequivocal and prompt. Indeed, on September 14 the Japanese Foreign Minister visited our Embassy to express support, and that same evening Prime Minister Koizumi spoke at this very club to a packed house of Japanese and Western media, pledging "maximum support" for the United States in the war on terrorism. The Prime Minister said that the attack on the World Trade Center was, and I quote, "an attack not only on the U.S...but on all countries in the world that believe in peace and freedom." The Prime Minister's message was clear, speaking for Japan: "We are with America."

And on Monday morning, September 17 - my first day back in the office - the Prime Minister was my first visitor. It is, I believe, unprecedented for a Japanese prime minister to visit the American Embassy. Other members of the Cabinet and the Diet soon followed to offer their support as well. And thousands of Japanese continued to come and pay their respects. They wrote their thoughts and prayers in condolence books at the front of the Embassy, and they continued to leave flowers. They lit incense and burned candles. Some left long chains of carefully folded paper cranes. My friends, this is the origin of my statement that I make so often: The outpouring of support in Japan was not because Japan and America are allies, but rather, because Japan and America are friends.

On September 19, the government of Japan announced a seven point package of actions it would take in the war on terrorism, including measures involving the Self Defense Forces, humanitarian assistance to affected countries, to displaced persons, and measures as well for the support of the world economy.

Prime Minister Koizumi was one of the first world leaders to go to the United States to meet with President Bush. Indeed, on September 25 at a joint press conference in the White House Rose Garden, describing their meeting, the President said, "The Prime Minister and I had a wide-ranging discussion about ways we can cooperate with each other to fight global terrorism." And that statement has characterized the relationship and the cooperation between our two countries since the moment that statement was uttered. He noted that we could cooperate by cutting off the terrorists' funding, sharing intelligence, working together diplomatically and in other ways. In response, the Prime Minister said, "We Japanese are ready to stand by the United States to fight terrorism." When they met again in October in Shanghai, the President said we have no stronger friend in the fight against terrorism than the Prime Minister of Japan.

It is perhaps appropriate to say, and I can tell you from personal observation, that not only do we appreciate the support and sympathy of the government and people of Japan, but in the course of this travail President Bush and the Prime Minister have become good friends, and enjoy a high level of mutual respect.

Throughout the past year, the Japanese government carried through on their firm commitments by working together with the United States and other friends and allies to tackle the problems posed by international terrorism. It has taken measures to freeze the assets of terrorist organizations, and in June ratified the UN Convention on the Suppression of Terrorist Financing. In October, the Diet authorized the Self Defense Forces to provide rear-area logistical support for the U.S. in its war on terrorism. In November, the Diet approved the Basic Plan laying out the details of SDF cooperation in the war on terrorism, and in May extended that plan for another six months.

There are currently 69 nations supporting the war on terrorism. Twenty nations responded by sending troops. Other nations contributed in other ways. The Japanese support in the war on terrorism has been particularly vital in the area of support logistics for the refueling of U.S. and UK ships in the Indian Ocean.

Once Afghanistan was liberated from the oppression of the Taliban, the next challenge was to begin the process of reconstruction, and in January in Tokyo, you demonstrated diplomatic leadership by hosting the "International Conference on Reconstruction Assistance for Afghanistan." The conference was a significant step in bringing Afghanistan back into the community of nations, and Japan pledged $500 million to be used to satisfy a variety of economic and humanitarian needs, including the purchase of medical supplies and vaccines and the construction of schools and hospitals. In all, sixty-one countries collectively pledged $4.5 billion to begin Afghanistan's reconstruction.

May I add a word about Japan's leadership in this effort? I say on many occasions that Japan is not only the second largest economy in the world - ranking only after the United States - but is a great independent sovereign nation, and that it has the opportunity and the obligation to lead as a full player on the world stage. Japan's participation and leadership in the Afghan Conference was a perfect example of how Japan can extend its influence and its good example throughout the world. I was particularly impressed with the chairmanship of that conference. Mrs. Ogata is a distinguished diplomat, a great leader, and she dealt with that conference of disparate viewpoints and ideas of nations with great firmness, but with great compassion and care. To me, she represents the essence of the instinctive cultural leadership of this great nation. I commend her, and I commend the Japanese government and the Japanese people for taking a leadership role in the Afghan Conference and the reconstruction of that country.

But my friends, there are many other opportunities for Japan to perform a leadership role in the world community, and you will know what they are because you know this part of the world better than anyone.

The Prime Minister's announced visit to North Korea is perhaps another example of the leadership, and the potential of Japanese foreign policy. It took courage on the part of the Prime Minister. There are dangers for the Prime Minister. But there are also great rewards in the offing. If Japan can help lead the way, or perhaps lead the way, in the reordering of the relationship between nation states in East Asia, it will be a major contribution. President Bush has expressed his support for the Prime Minister's trip. Everyone wishes him well in this difficult effort.

President Bush has also stated that the war on terrorism has just begun, and the campaign will take a long time, but after just one year the U.S., Japan and other nations have accomplished much. It's useful, I think, to remember what we've accomplished:

-- Afghanistan, which had been a haven for international terrorists, is no longer under the brutal control of the Taliban. It has a popularly chosen interim government, and more than 1.5 million refugees have been returned to their homes.

-- Governments of 90 nations have arrested or detained more than 2,400 terrorists.

-- 160 nations have frozen a total of 100 million dollars of assets associated with terrorist groups.

Throughout this difficult year I am sometimes asked by my Japanese friends, "What should Japan do in the war on terrorism?" And I always respond that that is very much a question for Japan to decide. Japan will consider its own vital interests, its own security, its own prosperity, its own relationship to the other nations of the world, but particularly through this region. And Japan will decide, as great nations do, what next steps to take. The government of the United States, the people of the United States, have high confidence that Japan will make the right decisions to further elaborate and extend the blessings of freedom and democracy in this part of the world.

As a world that has changed dramatically since 9/11, our struggle against terrorism has just begun. But we can take comfort in what we have accomplished. The friendship and outpouring of support and sympathy of the Japanese people sustained us immediately after the tragedy, and the government's actions contributed greatly to the success in liberating Afghanistan and beginning the process of rebuilding it. While the road ahead remains long, the accomplishments of the past twelve months give us optimism for the future.

My friends, these are impressions after just a year. I look forward to the next year and the leadership role that Japan can undertake, and the cooperation between the United States and Japan as friends and allies. I expect that the next year will be historic, as the last one has been. But I expect as well at the end of the year we will have an opportunity to look back and take pride in our response to the action of terrorists, not only in New York, but as threatened in other parts of the world. The danger is not over, but our friendship and cooperation and that of other freedom loving nations around the world is intact, as infinitely greater than the combined strength and threat of terrorism.

My friends, I am pleased to be in Tokyo. I'm happy to know more about this great culture and this great nation. I learn every day. I'm surprised every day. But I'm rewarded every day with an enhanced belief that you have an enormously promising future, and that the friendship between our two countries will grow and extend in the years ahead.

I thank you very much.


AMBASSADOR BAKER: Myron asked me if I prefer to stand up, and my reply is, for someone no taller than I am, I don't sit down for fear I'll disappear. (laughter)

MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Mr. Ambassador. We'll next move to questions and answers. We have only 25 minutes left before the Ambassador has to leave, which means only one question for each person. If you have a question, please raise your hand, come to the microphone over here, and state your name and affiliation. First, Anthony.

QUESTION: Anthony Rowley, Business Times. Mr. Ambassador, what message is Prime Minister Koizumi likely to covey on behalf of President Bush when he meets North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, and might he lay out any conditions under which North Korea will be removed from the list of nations on the so-called "axis of evil"?

AMBASSADOR BAKER: Of course what message the Prime Minister conveys in his September 17 speech is entirely up to the Prime Minister. But I would greatly surprised if there was not a meaningful and significant conversation between President Bush and the Prime Minister when they have an opportunity to meet in New York in advance of that trip. But once again, Japan will establish its own role in that respect, and as good friends I'm sure they'll keep us advised on how they will proceed.

It would be our hope, that is the American government's hope, that the North Koreans would renounce their commitment to terrorism, to the development of weapons of mass destruction, to their oppression of their people, to embrace a society that would be more rewarding and satisfying, not only for their own people, but less threatening to those adjoining it. So it's a wide range of things that we would wish for. But we'll settle for small steps.

And you know, as the Prime Minister meets with his North Korean counterpart, the possibilities are endless. But the promise is not without limitations. I do not know - I have no idea - what will result from those conversations. I do not know what will be necessary, or what steps might be taken to remove North Korea from the list of terrorist nations. But I do know that history is built one step at a time, and that Prime Minister Koizumi has done a courageous thing -- perhaps even a politically dangerous thing - by agreeing to go to Pyongyang to have this conversation. We have high confidence and faith in his judgment and wisdom and his leadership, and we await with great interest the results of his visit.

MODERATOR: Next question over here.

QUESTION: Ellen Fleysher, CBS News. Mr. Ambassador, in view of the closing of the Jakarta U.S. Embassy this morning for security concerns, could you give us an insight as to your concerns about American security in Asia?

AMBASSADOR BAKER: I received word that the Jakarta Embassy was closed, just as I arrived here. I do not know the details. I do know this: I know that we at the US Embassy in Tokyo watch very carefully all the available information and data. I am briefed daily - sometimes many times a day - on the information that we have from intelligence sources and otherwise. I can tell you that we are taking all reasonable precautions to protect not only Americans, but to protect the Embassy and our friends in Japan. I do not see the need for the Embassy in Tokyo, the American Embassy in Tokyo, to close. It will remain open. If that situation changes, in keeping with US policy of no double standard, we will let you know. But at the moment we feel there is no reason to take extraordinary measures, and we are happy to say we'll be open for business.

MODERATOR: Next question, Steve. Steve first.

QUESTION: Steven Herman, Associated Press Radio Network. Mr. Ambassador, the top diplomat from Iraq is scheduled to speak here tomorrow evening. And ...

AMBASSADOR BAKER: I'm sorry I won't be here to hear him. (laughter)

QUESTION: You're more than welcome to come. We'll give you a free ticket for that I'm sure. But what would you like to hear him say?

AMBASSADOR BAKER: Oh my. (laughter) No, you don't. I'm not going to answer that. But I want to tell you this: I used to be a lawyer, and my father before me was a lawyer, my grandfather was a lawyer - we're sort of caught in a rut - but my father taught me years ago, "Son, if you're trying a lawsuit or have a matter to deal with, and someone asks you a question that you don't like, answer some other question." (laughter) And it's not that I don't like the question, I just think it would be beyond the scope of my ability, and perhaps presumptuous on the opportunity of the next speaker...

I will yield him my chocolate cake, which I didn't get a chance to eat (laughter) but...I will tell him if I were here, I would tell him that the world community would welcome Iraq as a full-fledged participating democratic society that would renounce its wish to dominate others, to persecute its own people, and to have weapons of mass destruction. Other than that, I might not have anything to say to him. Thank you very much for the question.

MODERATOR: Next question, Aritake.

QUESTION: Mr. Ambassador, Toshio Aritake from BNA (Bureau of National Affairs). How should the world - Japan, the United States, Europe and other countries - reconcile with the issue of China becoming increasingly so every year the world's sort of manufacturing place, manufacturing factory? As a result, you know, Japan, the US and other countries are suffering employment problems and other problems.

AMBASSADOR BAKER: Let me say a word about the China-Japan relationship and the China-U.S. relationship to begin with. I should point out that in my view, the China issue is not a zero-sum game. That is, if you're a friend of the United States, you don't have to be an enemy of China, and if you're a friend of Japan, you don't have to be an enemy of China or a friend of China's, you don't have to be an enemy of either. It is not a zero-sum game; it's a complex equation.

China is huge and growing, both in population and economic prowess. It would be foolhardy for any of us to ignore that, particularly Japan. But it would also be foolish, in my view, to resist the idea that they will continue to grow. China is going to be an important part of the national life of this area in particular, but the rest of the world as well. And our job is to understand it -- our meaning the rest of the world - but the U.S. and Japan in particular. To understand it, to take advantage of the changed circumstances and to adapt to the best arrangement for our industry, our commerce, our politics, and to take account as well of the best interests of the people of China and their future.

Our objective ought not to be, in my view, to defeat China - politically, militarily or any other way - but rather to bring us into accord on a peaceful existence between the nations that will contribute something of value to men and women everywhere. That's what we do with China. And it's often said that China will soon overtake Japan. Maybe. But I think not in my lifetime. China is still only a fraction of the size of the total gross national product of Japan.

China could treble, quadruple its gross national product, and still be far smaller than Japan. Japan is an enormous, rich, sovereign nation. It will take its place in this region, just as China will, but it should not be afraid of China, and China should not be afraid of Japan. Maybe there's a role for the United States to be an honest broker between them, but China's a force, but China should be our friend, or at least our collaborator, in the advancement of the cause of humanity in this region and throughout the world.

MODERATOR: Next question ...

QUESTION: Rebecca MacKinnon from CNN. Mr. Ambassador, to return to the Iraq question, whether you like it or not...

AMBASSADOR BAKER: I thought you might. (laughter)

QUESTION: It appears that the Koizumi administration has some reservations about a potential U.S. attack on Iraq. And so I'm wondering if you could tell us, what kind of message is being sent through your Embassy to the government here on that issue? It also seems to be that there's a great deal of concern here about what the United States might ask Japan to do in support of any potential action against Iraq. What kind of message are you sending on that score?

AMBASSADOR BAKER: Rebecca, those are very good questions, and they're exactly three days premature. (laughter) Because after I meet with the President, which I will do on the 12th; and meet with the Secretary of State, which I'll do on the 12th; and the Secretary of Defense, which I will do on the 11th; I will have a better insight into that. But the literal answer to your question is that we have made no request to Japan through our Embassy. We stay in constant touch with the Embassy on the unfolding of developments, and we explain America's position on these things and the President's point of view. We also explain those who disagree with the presumed position the President, although I'm careful to point out the President has not stated what his position is, except to say that he has no plans on his desk for an immediate attack on Iraq. That is still the operative U.S. position. As and when that changes, then we'll have more communication with other nations, including Japan.

What does the U.S. expect Japan to do? As I said earlier, and it may sound too grand by half, but what we expect Japan to do is look after its own self interest. And to decide what is best for Japan, what is best for the security of Japan. My guess is that Japan will decide that its best friend and best ally is the United States, and that it will be a friend of any effort that the United States may initiate to try to improve the situation of Iraq and the stability of the world. But we have made no specific request to Japan that I'm aware of, certainly none through our Embassy. As and when it develops that there are further things, then I'll be happy to talk to you again.

But seriously, one reason, as you know that I'm going to leave here in a few minutes, is because two really important events are about to occur, and I'm going to have an opportunity to participate. One is the President's meeting with the Prime Minister, and the other is the President's address to the General Assembly of the United Nations. I would assume that we will hear much more, and in much more detail, what America's plans are in that respect, than we have now. But it would not be wise for me to speculate on what that will be. But I do thank you very much. You're a good reporter.

MODERATOR: The next question is Michael.

QUESTION: Michael Zielenziger with Knight-Ridder. Thanks for being here, Ambassador. Let me try Rebecca's question a little bit of a different way. President Bush has regarded North Korea as part of the "axis of evil", yet Prime Minister Koizumi is going there next week, may actually even offer this part of the "axis of evil" some kind of economic cooperation. At the same time, he's going to give a speech in New York opposing unilateral intervention in Iraq. He's already signaled that. You have said just now that it's important for Japan to make its own decisions about itself. But on the other hand, for many, many years, let's face it, Japan was very much dependent on the United States for making most of its security decisions. My question is, is there now the possibility of increasing daylight between what America believes and what Japan believes, and does that create a new sort of stress on this relationship that's still so very important?

AMBASSADOR BAKER: Well, I tried to make it clear that the policy of the United States is to respect the sovereignty, integrity and judgment of Japan. That may or may not develop into a difference in the implementation of a plan toward Iraq or North Korea or somebody else. But it has not yet. The question is how that unfolds and develops. I also said earlier that I have high confidence that the Japanese will treat these matters responsibly and well. And I do. But that will also entail extended conversations, I'm sure, between our Embassy and the Japanese government, and between our government and the Japanese Embassy and other officials.

But it's an ongoing process, and whether it opens any daylight between us or not remains to be seen. I do not think it will alter in a fundamental way the friendship and alliance between Japan and the U.S. It may expose differences in attitude on particular issues, but I think the fundamental friendship and alliance between our two countries will remain intact.

I mentioned a moment ago, and then interrupted myself I think, or at least didn't continue the thought, it is sometimes pointed out that there are apparent differences and attitudes between some people in the government and some people who were once in government, like Secretary Eagleburger and Brent Scowcroft and others along the way. It is so hard for me to get across to people, I'm sure not to you, but to so many that it is the very essence, it's the very genius of our system that we can tolerate different points of view, and that we can ventilate them in public. And that sooner or later we synthesize that into a position, and that only the President can do that. He is the chief magistrate; he gets the last word on foreign policy, and he will decide that.

I admire the President for tolerating these differences of opinion and I suspect, even encouraging these differences of opinion. So I'm not troubled by that, and I'm not troubled by the idea that Japan and the United States might have a different slant or a different attitude on how exactly to advance the cause of freedom, peace and tranquility in East Asia. But that remains to be seen. We will have close collaboration and coordination between our two countries, I predict, and I think that will be very worthwhile.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am perilously close to telling you more than I know. (laughter) And I'm also perilously close to having to leave. So, with your permission, I'll take one more question and then I'll be on my way.

MODERATOR: That's exactly what I thought, Mr. Ambassador. Last question, Taniguchi.

QUESTION: Thank you Chairman and Ambassador. Tomohiko Taniguchi with Nikkei Business. Let me just come back to the North Korean issue. It seems that negotiations between North Korea and Japan had been going on for months before the Prime Minister made the announcement, so my question is can one assume the U.S. Embassy and you personally have been briefed by your counterpart, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, about the planned visit?

AMBASSADOR BAKER: We are aware and have been aware for a while that there were conversations between Japan and North Korea. We are aware that that's gone on perhaps for as long as a year. We've voiced no protest, no disagreement with that. We've asked to be kept advised and, indeed, the Japanese government, I believe, has kept us well advised. On the question of the decision of the Prime Minister himself to travel to North Korea, I must tell you that, as far as I'm concerned at least, I learned of it first when Secretary Armitage was here and we were visiting with the Prime Minister. But I was asked then to arrange a telephone call between the Prime Minister and the President, which of course I did. They carried on a conversation on this subject, and it would be the least diplomatic thing I've ever done in my life if I tried to recite to you what they talked about. But I will confirm for you that the first knowledge I had of the Prime Minister's visit, personal visit to North Korea, was during that period, and that I was specifically asked to arrange a telephone call, which I did.

Ladies and gentlemen, you're a good audience, as always, and I thank you very much for your attention.